OU School of Dance Reflects on Impact of Gladys Bailin and Twyla Tharp

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Twyla Tharp is widely recognized as one of the most influential American dancers and choreographers of the past century, and her influence is being felt by students at Ohio University. Her work is often cited as defining the concept of crossover ballet and synthesizing the worlds of modern and postmodern dance.

On Friday, March 26 at 9 p.m. ET, WOUB-TV will broadcast American Masters: Twyla Moves, a documentary about the life and impact of the legendary dancer.


“Twyla Tharp was really involved in the post modern dance movement in New York City in the ‘70s, which really revolutionized how we look at dance composition,” said Tresa Randall, an Associate Professor in the Ohio University School of Dance and the Director of the Honors Tutorial College Dance Program who teaches dance history, dance composition, and studio dance classes. Randall also provides instruction in the Ohio University School of Dance’s graduate Community Dance program. “That movement introduced more improvisational methods in performance, and it expanded the notions of where a dance can occur. Twyla Tharp came from that world, and then surprisingly, she moved into choreographing for ballet companies – which were just about the opposite of the post-modern dance movement. She really bridged the gap between modern and post-modern dance.”

Christi Camper Moore, an Assistant Professor in the School of Dance whose teaching responsibilities range from studio based classes to dance composition classes, as well as graduate level teaching in the Community Dance Program and within the Master’s of Arts Administration program, said one particularly acclaimed former director is responsible for the ways in which Twyla Tharp’s legacy continues to influence the Ohio University School of Dance.

“I think that one of Twyla’s lasting legacies is this idea of creativity and composition and the tools that we can teach students in their own working and thinking about generating movement material. The school of dance at Ohio University is really lucky because we had Gladys Bailin Stern as a director for many years, who revolutionized our curriculum to make it one of the first in the country to really focus on composition and this idea of a creative practice,” said Moore.

Gladys Bailin is a retired Director Emerita and Distinguished Professor of Dance at Ohio University, who decided to “take a leap of faith” and leave her position with New York University to teach at Ohio University in 1972.

“The former director of the school, Shirley Wimmer, was looking for faculty and had heard about what I was doing and teaching and she invited me to come to Athens,” said Bailin. “Athens was very out of the way, but I was just stunned by it, and I liked Shirley a lot. I also liked the fact that it was a young department – and the students who were here at the time were just so eager and wonderful.”

Initially, Bailin, her husband, and son thought that the move to Athens would just be temporary – but some 50 years later, it’s clear that it certainly wasn’t, and the Ohio University School of Dance was forever impacted by Bailin’s dedication to creative movement.

“I always wanted to have students not just be what I call ‘wonderful movers,’ but also mentally stimulated, creative thinkers, as well,” she said. “I was a very big believer that everybody should have some kind of creative work to do. So one of the things that was important to me is that all of the students had classes in creative work and choreography, in addition to their training. At the time, most schools would reserve choreography classes for more advanced students, but I felt that every student should be learning about choreography at every level. I had students start choreography classes as freshmen and continue that throughout their four years. It was a way in which we could distinguish our program, but more importantly, it was a way to foster creativity for students from their very first classes as freshmen all the way through their senior year.”

2020-2021 have been particularly unusual for Ohio University School of Dance students, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been keeping busy. Check out this list of upcoming and forthcoming events for the Ohio University School of Dance, and keep tabs on what the Ohio University School of Dance is up to anytime on their website

John B’s Covid Flow

Currently available in four sections on YouTube through the duration of Spring Semester 2021.  

The annual presentation of the Ohio University School of Dance Junior Projects will take place on April 8 and 9 and the Ohio University School of Dance Senior Concert will take place April 16 and 17. These events will be hosted in-person, but outdoors and following all COVID-19 protocol. Email Christi Camper Moore at for more information.